Islamic State's first attack on Indonesia raises fear of homegrown radicals: Jakarta put on high alert

Army trucks thundered through Indonesia's capital Friday as authorities boosted security at possible terror targets and probed the suspected Islamic State cell blamed for Jakarta's deadly militant attacks. This was the terrorist organisation's first attack on Indonesia.

Four of the five men killed in suicide and gun assaults Thursday had been identified, and a subsequent search of one of their homes found IS-related evidence, including the group's flag, National police spokesman Anton Charliyan said.

The rapid-fire series of bombings and a shootout between gunmen and police erupted in a busy part of the capital, lined with malls and foreign missions, shocking moderate-Muslim Indonesians and leaving two civilians and five attackers dead.

Islamic States first attack on Indonesia raises fear of homegrown radicals: Jakarta put on high alert

An Indonesian anti-terror policeman (Gegana Brimob) walks next to the Starbucks cafe near site of the attacks in Jakarta. AFP

Authorities in the world's most populous Muslim country have blamed a network of Islamic State fighters from Southeast Asia that was forged in the radical jihadist group's war in Syria and Iraq.

"An alert has been imposed throughout Indonesia," said Charliyan.

"National police are on their highest alert, especially in areas considered targets of terror, like police stations, government offices, and embassies, with army backup."

He did not elaborate on the army's role but AFP reporters saw a convoy of a half-dozen military trucks filled with heavily armed troops in central Jakarta.

Stepped-up police security was also seen at some foreign embassies, and officers in Jakarta and on the resort island of Bali patrolled in riot gear and with assault rifles.

Indonesia's worst terror incident in seven years killed five attackers, a Canadian and an Indonesian man, according to police.

Charliyan said the number of injured was revised upward from 20 to 24 — three foreigners, six police officers and the rest Indonesian civilians.

The attacks spilled out in dramatic fashion on a bustling street at mid-morning, transfixing Indonesia's hyperactive social-media world, as images and videos of the carnage went viral.

Fears confirmed
Police have singled out Indonesian extremist Bahrum Naim as behind the assault.

Indonesian servicemen stand guard as police officers collect evidences from the site of blasts and shootings in Jakarta. AFP

Indonesian servicemen stand guard as police officers collect evidences from the site of blasts and shootings in Jakarta. AFP

Naim, believed to be in Syria, is said to be a founding member of Katibah Nusantara, the grouping of Southeast Asian fighters there.

Terror analysts warn that the group, believed to consist mostly of militants from Indonesia, but also Malaysia and elsewhere in the region, has threatened for more than a year to bring jihad home.

Regional nations have been warning for months of the possibility of attack, mirroring concerns expressed by European authorities fearful of the intentions of people returning home from conflict.

"We know that (Islamic State) has the desire to declare a province in this region and there are groups in this region... that have pledged allegiance to (Islamic State)," said Kumar Ramakrishna, an expert on southeast Asian militant groups at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

"The threat of returning Southeast Asian fighters radicalised in the Iraq/Syria region (is) also another factor of concern, together with the possibility of self-radicalised lone wolves appearing in the scene."

Indonesian police have explicitly likened the attack to the jihadist violence in November in Paris that left 130 people dead, and presented sobering proof to a horrified world of the reach and fanatical determination of IS adherents.

The IS late on Thursday claimed responsibility for the Jakarta attack.

The attackers included three suicide bombers who initially targeted a Starbucks near a major shopping mall. Men armed with pistols then took two foreigners hostage: an Algerian and a man that Indonesian authorities said was from Canada. The Algerian escaped with bullet wounds, police said, but the second man was shot dead.

Two men on a motorbike also destroyed a police post in a suicide bomb attack that left four officers severely injured.

 'Stupid terrorists'
Indonesia suffered several large bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, but a subsequent security crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks, and there had been no major attacks since 2009.

President Joko Widodo has urged calm, and there seemed little evidence of public jitters, with Jakarta back to its bustling self Friday, the Muslim holy day.

"I am not afraid of terrorists because life is in Allah's hands, and today is Friday so, God willing, nothing bad will happen," said Toto Suhadi, 52, a gardener watering plants near the attack site.

Large floral tributes to victims marked the scene Friday, while corrugated-iron cordons erected at the Starbucks and the shattered police post bore scrawled denunciations of jihadism.

"Stupid terrorists! Where did you get the idea that you can go to heaven by killing the innocents and then commit suicide, which is banned in Islam?" said one message.

Islamic State jihadists will likely increase the tempo of attacks around the world as they come under increased pressure in Iraq and Syria, a top US general warned Thursday.

US Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin. AFP

US Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin. AFP

General Lloyd Austin, who currently heads the military's Central Command (CENTCOM) overseeing Middle East operations, made the argument that recent IS-claimed attacks like the ones this week in Istanbul and Jakarta are in fact evidence the group is faltering.

"ISIL has assumed a defensive posture in Iraq and Syria," Austin said at a news conference in Florida.

"Going forward, we can expect to see him rely increasingly on acts of terrorism such as we saw this week in Baghdad and in Turkey, and most recently in Jakarta," he added.

The IS group, which swept through vast regions of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and 2015 and captured a string of cities, has seen recent setbacks across its self-proclaimed caliphate, including the loss of the key Iraqi city of Ramadi to US-supported local forces.

A US-led coalition has also been hammering the group's oil infrastructure, including by blowing up hundreds of trucks used to ferry illicit crude oil around Syria, and this week bombed a financial facility in the Iraqi city of Mosul that US officials said held millions of dollars in cash.

Austin, who has headed CENTCOM since March 2013 and will shortly be stepping down, said the IS group is upping its overseas actions to distract from such losses.

"ISIL wants to draw attention away from the growing number of setbacks that it is experiencing," Austin said, using an alternative name for the IS group.

"It is important to understand that these terrorist acts don't necessarily mean ISIL is getting stronger," he added.

"ISIL by its nature is a terrorist organisation and by conducting these attacks, he is attempting to produce an image of invincibility in the wake of setbacks. So overall, we are making progress."

With inputs from AFP

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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2016 14:28:22 IST

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